Women already know they need to cut back on coffee during pregnancy, if not sooner, to lower the risk of miscarriage. But a new study suggests that men need to limit caffeine too.
Pregnant women who had more than two caffeinated drinks a day while trying to conceive had a 74 percent higher risk of miscarriage than their peers who drank less coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks, the study found.
When their husbands and boyfriends had more than two caffeinated drinks a day before conception, however, these pregnant women ended up with almost the same increased risk of miscarriage they would get from drinking coffee or soda themselves.
The new data suggests that men and women who are trying to start a family keep their intake to less than three caffeinated drinks per day. The researchers did not find drinking one to two daily caffeinated beverages increased the risk of miscarriage.
Scientists aren’t sure how caffeine contributes to miscarriages, but it’s possible it affects egg or sperm production, implantation of the fertilized egg, or the ability of the embryo to grow in the uterus.
To assess how lifestyle choices may influence miscarriage risk, the U.S. study team followed 344 couples in Texas and Michigan through the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
All of the couples recorded their daily use of cigarettes, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages and multivitamins.
Overall, 98 women (28 percent) experienced a miscarriage during the study.
Women 35 or older had nearly double the miscarriage risk of younger women.
When women took daily multivitamins, their miscarriage risk was 55 percent lower than for their peers who didn’t do this.
The study wasn’t designed to prove that excessive caffeine consumption causes miscarriages, or that vitamins prevent pregnancy loss, the authors noted.
It’s possible that women who cut back on caffeine did so because they were experiencing food aversions and vomiting – both signs of a healthy pregnancy – and this might explain some of the connection between miscarriages and caffeine.
One surprise in the study is that researchers didn’t find an increased miscarriage risk associated with smoking or alcohol, however. This is at odds with previous research finding that both smoking and alcohol use can reduce pregnancy rates and increase the risk of adverse effects on fetal development.
Doctors currently advise couples trying to conceive to avoid delays, especially when they’re over 35, and counsel women to limit caffeine and take multivitamins.
Based on these new findings, experts should now recommend that the male partners also reduce their caffeine intake.
Source: Fertility and Sterility, online March 24, 2016.
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